An estate agent recruitment consultancy says that the sector is experiencing the worst staff shortages in a generation.
Cutbacks made by firms last summer look to have been premature, as they may have driven good people out of the industry, and are said to be responsible for the shortage this spring.
Property Personnel managing director Anthony Hesse says that the number of residential sales vacancies registered with the company in the first quarter of this year has more than doubled compared to the same period last year.
This is despite redundancies and branch closures – most notably by Countrywide, which has reported shutting 200 outlets in the last year, while LSL has closed 21.
Hesse said: “It’s a really strange market out there in estate agency at the moment – but the lack of available recruits is a defining factor.
“One of our clients has over 100 vacancies they are unable to fill; another has 46 property manager vacancies that they can’t find suitable candidates for.
“I would say that the struggle to fill vacancies is currently second only to the difficulties estate agencies are experiencing financially.”
We asked Hess if there was any trend towards candidates not wanting to work for corporates, but he told EYE: “I don’t think so. In fact, we make as many placements with independents and small boutique agencies as we do the large corporates. This trend seems to be happening across the board.
“The belief that the ‘grass is always greener’ means that we get people at large corporates who want to go and work for small independents, as well as people at small independents who want to go and work for large corporates – in almost equal measure.
“The truth is, the low availability of candidates is down to the agencies stopping recruiting last summer. The impact of that is starting to filter through now. Added to which, despite Brexit, there’s a genuine feeling of optimism out there. And we’re working hard to secure placements wherever we can.”
Hesse’s comments echo broader observations made by Recruitment and Employment Confederation chief executive Kevin Green, who said: “Although permanent placements have hit a 12-month high, businesses across the UK are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit for permanent roles.
“The big question still remains about how employers will fill their vacancies.”
Hesse added: “After nearly 30 years of placing personnel in all areas of residential estate agency, the number of vacancies registered with us is a good indication of confidence in the sector.
“So in many ways, this is an excellent time for people who are prepared to move jobs, as those hiring them compete to secure the talent available.
“It’s also a good time to welcome people into estate agency for the first time. Last year, 36% of our placements were people with no experience in estate agency whatsoever.
“And this year, around a third of our clients would consider candidates with a similar background.
“So the opportunities are definitely out there for those who want to discover what a dynamic and exciting industry this is.”
Whilst the number of sales vacancies registered with Property Personnel has more than doubled, the number of lettings vacancies has remained stable in comparison.
Hesse said: “The three months after the referendum saw a significant drop in the number of vacancies available – especially in residential sales, but also a slight dip in lettings. However, on the sales side, nine months later, there are scores of jobs available out there.”